It was quite a cold, windy, rainy day for April, even by Indiana standards. The weatherman had even predicted the dreaded 4 letter “S” word that so many hate hear…….yep, you guessed it……SNOW! (which I, myself love!!) Knowing the weather would not be any better in Detroit, I must say that today, I was looking forward to a trip a little further south just for a short time. And so… off we go to pick up Robert and his daughter.
Robert is 89 years old and has lived in the Detroit area most of his adult life. He and his wife of 62 years and counting, raised their 2 daughters Nancy and JoEllen here. After serving our country with the Marines, Robert became a teacher and went on to become a principal from which he retired after 35 years. His bride Margaret was a teacher too prior to becoming a full time homemaker. Robert is also a big Detroit Tigers baseball fan. Nancy now lives in North Carolina and JoEllen and her family moved just south of Atlanta about 5 years ago when her husband lost his job in the auto industry. JoEllen, a nurse, took a job with the CDC and they have fallen in love with the area in the south.
It was JoEllen’s daughter Sara that contacted us about transporting her grandfather to Georgia. He is currently in rehab after having a tumor removed from his neck. When we arrive at the facility JoEllen is at her father’s bedside, he is completely dressed with his shoes and all but most importantly his favorite hat. It is a U.S. Marines ball cap. Probably white at one time but now, although a little dingy from being well worn over the years he continues to wear it with pride and does not let it far from his sight.
We gather Robert, JoEllen and their things as they bid their goodbyes. Margaret, Sara and 2 dogs will be making the trip by ground (about 13 hours). JoEllen definitely got the better end of the deal. Several of the staff here remembered Robert back when they were in school and he was their principal. Now they have had the privilege of caring for him. Just as we were leaving JoEllen filled up a cup with ice chips for her father to have during our flight. As we weathered the wind and drizzling rain we made our way back to the airport and boarded Nellie for our trip to Georgia.
Robert stayed awake for most of the trip, resting only about � hour. JoEllen shared how her father never forgot the names of any of his students. She had recently taken him for an appointment when a former student, now an attorney got onto the elevator. Robert called him by his first name and spoke as though they had both gone back in time. His only request during the flight were ice chips. It was so sweet, he never spoke a work except, “JoEllen”… in which she would respectfully respond, “yes, daddy”… and I would then lean over and give him an ice chip. And so this continued our entire trip. Boy, was I glad she had filled that cup!
Once we arrived at his new home in the small town of Newnan we were greeted “southern style” by an amazing group of staff who had been waiting our arrival. The sun was shining brightly and there was a lite comfortably breeze softly blowing. Out front were several oversized rocking chairs filled with residents and families sitting and visiting.
As we walked up to the door they were smiling as they asked us how we were doing. It was as if they too had been waiting on us and we had not yet made it inside. Once inside not only was it warm and welcoming but I found myself wanting to sit down and visit this wonderful group of ladies who were now prepared to love on this family. I knew this was going to be a great place for Robert and Margaret when during my conversation with the staff I found out that many had been here for over 18+ years.
They were already a family themselves and they just grew that much bigger with the arrival of Robert and his family. They all gathered around his bed to help make him comfortable and tend to whatever needs he had. After they joined us in prayer we all began hugging one another as though we had been friends forever it was during this time that Robert spoke. This time not requesting ice chips but he was requesting his favorite hat and we were happy to reunite him with it.
1 PETER 4:89
ABOVE ALL, LOVE EACH OTHER DEEPLY,BECAUSE LOVE COVERS OVER A MULTITUDE OF SINS. OFFER HOSPITALITY TO ONE ANOTHER WITHOUT GRUMBLING.
Thank you to Hal and Danny for sharing this mission with me.
May the God of peace and grace be with you all.
Shelli Engle RN